A Tunnel in the Sky

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Even Though I Knew the End
by C. L. Polk

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted November 11, 2022

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Another novella from Tor, which I was fortunate in winning a print ARC in a giveaway on Twitter. It published three days ago, and had been on my wish list for a while. It is different from the others by Polk that I have read, but just as good as any of them. Since it is short, I will do the same for this review, because I do not want to spoil anything. It is highly recommended.

Helen Brandt, alternately referred to as Elena, is a mystical private detective in Chicago, circa 1941. Her younger brother Ted is a member of the Brotherhood of the Compass, a group that oversees the practicing of witchcraft and sorcery. The group is primarily men, although qualified women and girls are allowed if they have someone in their family already part of the group. Helen had been with them, or was poised to become a member, but was expelled for an offense which I will not reveal. That group now considers her a rogue warlock. She uses her abilities in her investigations, including conjuring spells she has devised herself, and of which she is sure the Brotherhood is unaware. Several of her assignments come from Marlowe, a mysterious, beautiful, and very rich woman, who lives in the penthouse of Palmer House.

One of the spells she has created allows her to take photographs in extremely low light conditions, in fact just pale moonlight can negatively affect the shot. The latest case involves the serial killer the police have named the White City Vampire. Even Helen doesn't believe in vampires, but the name is appropriate, since all the victims had been exsanguinated. Helen's task is to determine the purpose of the killings, if there were any connections between the victims, and of course the identity of the killer. She butts heads with her brother several times, even more so with his partner. It seems clear that the Brotherhood works outside of the police, but not whether the police are aware of them. So, a detective noir with strong supernatural elements, rivalries between official and rogue warlocks, with multiple twists along the way. Think of it like Harry Dresden if Harry was a woman and a lesbian. Helen certainly feels an attraction to Marlowe, but never acts on it because of her relationship with Edith Jarosky. Edith works in radio dramas and has an opportunity for a new job in San Francisco. Helen is game to move with her, but there's one major thing she has to take care of first. And she's on a deadline.

Atmospheric as to both time and place, with realistic action and dialog amongst the magic. The sapphic romance is fraught with tension and paranoia at every turn, a situation almost as dangerous as battling a supernatural killer. Helen knew her end, but was still intent on changing it. Even though she still knows her end, she is determined to cherish every moment she can have with Edith. It's a complete story, but I would not say no to more of these characters. It would also make a dynamic film or TV series. Highly recommended.


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C. L. Polk

November 8, 2022

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